Trilogies. They rarely hold up, right? There’s regularly a problem with part 3, like a band’s third album that somehow seems nowhere near as good as the first two. But are they all really that bad? Well, here’s a few that buck the trend.
Back To The Future Part III
Okay, the two sequels weren’t anywhere near as good as the first one. But the third instalment in Marty McFly’s time-hopping adventures is a lot more fun and a lot less confusing than Part II. Marty travels back to 1885 and wild west California to rescue the stranded Doc Brown before he gets shot, but doesn’t bargain on Doc falling for a local schoolteacher with a telescope and a love of Jules Verne.
There’s plenty to love here. Doc passes out drunk after spending a night sniffing the fumes from a shot of bourbon and then finally downing it; his rationalising that stealing and crashing a steam locomotive is just ‘borrowing’; Marty inventing the flying disc by throwing a Frisbee pie tin and becoming a crack pistol shot from playing arcade games at his local 7/11; and best of all, the grizzled old prospectors in the saloon. When Marty is trying to buy time and not go out to fight Buford Tannen, one refers to his assumed identity with the line “Everybody, everywhere, will say Clint Eastwood is the biggest yeller belly in the west!” And of course, Doc’s flying steam train at the end. Much as I would’ve loved more time-travelling fun, it’s probably best that the franchise ended here with a fitting tribute to both the Western and sci-fi genres. Speaking of Westerns…
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The third part in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns, we find Clint Eastwood’s nameless bounty hunter trying to track down a hoard of Confederate gold with the help/hindrance of Eli Wallach’s grizzled bandit Tuco and Lee van Cleef’s psychopathic assassin Angel Eyes, against the backdrop of the last days of the American Civil War.
This film is possibly my favourite Western. There’s so much here to enjoy, from Wallach’s scenery-chewing anger as Tuco frequently goes ballistic at the other two lead character’s attempts at hindering him, to Eastwood’s silent amusement at the events that are unfolding around him. Arguably the best parts are Angel Eyes’ sadistic torture of Tuco to get the location of the gold while a band plays to mask his screams; Tuco shooting a gunfighter he wounded in the film’s opening scenes who catches up with him and starts monologuing (Tuco’s line of “when you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk” after dispatching him is just awesome); and the ongoing antagonism between Eastwood’s ‘Blondie’ and the other two main characters that results in some fantastic one-liners like “God’s not on our side because he hates idiots”. This is just a brilliant film, regardless of genre.
The Bourne Ultimatum
When you have two wildly successful movies already in the series, who in their right mind would tamper with the formula? After all, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
Amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne returns, pursued by the CIA, FSB, BBC and RAC as he battles to safeguard Guardian journalist Simon Ross and expose the CIA’s operations Treadstone and Blackbriar to the world. Both are brainwashing programmes designed to destroy a subject’s morality and turn him into a perfect killing machine. Bourne was a test subject for Treadstone and Blackbriar was created specifically to train an agent to hunt down and eliminate him, since Bourne’s morality had returned when he lost his memory. Confused? Well, me too. But hell, there’s lots of fighting so who cares?
The quintessential formula of the previous two films remains here: fighting, stunts and minimal anything else. And it works. Not a lot else to say.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Book three of the Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson concludes his epic trilogy in great style. Enough said.
As Frodo, Sam and Gollum near the fire-pits of Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, Gandalf and co prepare to fight the assembled hoards of Sauron while Legolas, Gimli and Aragon try to get supernatural help from an assembled haunting of ghost warriors. Cue giant spiders, orcs, magic, walking trees and more sword-and-arrow fighting than the mind can comfortably focus on.
There’s not really much you can say about Return of the King, apart from the fact that it’s bloody epic. Lots of drama, lots of fighting, Frodo finally going postal and fighting Gollum to the death over the Ring, this has it all. Even Ian Holm as an incredibly decrepit Bilbo Baggins at the end. If I can find a flaw, it’s the lack of the Scouring of the Shire. Many people have complained about Saruman’s revenge on the Hobbits, but considering the contemptuous welcome Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pip got when they returned home it would’ve been more than justified here.
Seriously? You’re including this? Why yes, voices in my head, I am.
The Director’s Cut of Alien³ was far, far more a David Fincher film than the original version that had 20th Century Fox’s greasy fingerprints all over it. There’s better pacing, more explanation about how the hell the Aliens came to be on Fiorina-161 and an explanation of what happened to Paul McGann’s character too.
Also, the main reason I’m including this here is that Alien Resurrection and the two AVP films are so bad I’m disowning them from the official series.
Return of the Jedi/Revenge of the Sith
Okay, it’s Star Wars time. Brace yourselves.
Yes, Jedi is nowhere near as good as Empire. Everybody knows that. There are several real redeeming features though. We get to see the Emperor in all his glory at long last, a shrivelled up old wizard with fantastic Force powers. There’s Vader’s redemption, of course. There’s Lando flying the Falcon through the second Death Star, epic space battles and Jabba the Hutt.
Of course there’s also the Ewoks. I feckin’ hate the Ewoks. It had always been Lucas’s intention to have a primitively tribal race be instrumental in the downfall of the technologically advanced Empire. Originally it was supposed to be the Wookiees, but Chewie had demonstrated that they were pretty tech-savvy. So we got the Ewoks instead, but instead of being short Wookiees they were crappy fake teddy bears with the blank dead eyes of man-eating sharks. And they subject us to their terrible singing at the end of the film. Lubnub my arse…
Luckily there’s more to enjoy in the prequel trilogy’s finale. Maybe it’s because Phantom Menace was so downright awful and Attack of the Clones about 50% filler, but Revenge of the Sith absolutely rocked. Even taking away Lucas’s usual predilection for filling the background of scenes with endlessly unneeded detail, there’s still a fantastic sci-fi actioner underneath. Vader unintentionally betrays the Jedi, turning to the Dark Side from a combination of necessity and having nowhere else to go. His fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi throughout the base on Mustafar is an awesome spectacle, ending in his horrific and painful transformation into the Darth Vader we all know. Also, Yoda duels with Darth Sidious. Samuel L Jackson duels with Darth Sidious. Frankly, this film would be worth the price of admission just for the Lightsaber duels.
Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3
Bruce Campbell is GOD. This should be enough of a reason to watch this film. If you need more, the third instalment in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series goes completely bonkers and transitions from horror to a mix of horror, comedy and medieval action piece.
Following straight on from Evil Dead 2’s conclusion, where Ash is swept back in time and drops a flying Deadite with a shotgun blast to the head, we find out erstwhile hero being arrested and tried for witchcraft in a medieval England that somehow looks vaguely reminiscent of California. Of course with the castles in the region being besieged by demons and only Campbell’s chainsaw-and-boomstick-wielding store clerk capable of stopping them, it doesn’t last long. Fashioning himself a replacement hand out of an armour gauntlet, Ash sets out to recover the original copy of the Necrinomicon, banish the demons and get back to the 20th Century. Of course, this being a Sam Raimi film he inevitably ballses it up and is left fighting against insane odds in comedic set-pieces that leave Campbell getting seven shades kicked out of him.
Apart from being wonderfully amusing in its own right, Army of Darkness comes with two possible endings. One sees Ash manage to travel back to the future but cocks up the magic words (again) and brings the evil dead back with him, resulting in a show-down in the aisles of S-Mart between Ash and a possessed customer. This is notable only for the wonderful lines “yo she-bitch, let’s go” and “hail to the king, baby”. The original ending has Ash seal himself in a cave with a magic potion that will allow him to sleep for centuries. Unfortunately he takes one drop too much and digs himself out of his cave to find an empty, post-apocalyptic London that finally tips him over the edge into full-blown insanity.
Give me some sugar, baby.